The GTA Game That Takes The Shortest Time To Beat

The "Grand Theft Auto" series has thrilled fans and sparked controversy over the things it has let players do since the '90s. Over the years, Rockstar has created some massive worlds to explore and colorful characters to meet. The franchise has earned a reputation for the sheer size of its games which can eat up dozens of hours of playtime. Of course, not every entry has reached such heights. 

Gamers familiar with the latest offerings may be surprised to learn that some of the earlier titles were on the smaller side. Those looking for a bite-sized "GTA" experience, or wondering just how brief a "GTA" game can get, may want to know what the shortest game in the series is. As it turns out, this is a more complicated question than expected.

When pondering what "GTA" game takes the least amount of time to beat, it matters which games you count. Are you considering every game that bears the "GTA" label? Just the console games? Just the games that match the gameplay and style of the series today? As it turns out, each of these questions would get a different answer.

The shortest of the modern games: GTA 3

The "Grand Theft Auto" series has spanned PC, consoles, and handheld devices and both 2D and 3D gameplay. Many fans, however, will likely see the series as the console and PC entries that have come out since "GTA 3." While the first two "GTA" titles established the franchise, their 2D, top-down gameplay looks nothing like what the IP has transformed into. Meanwhile, the handheld games were essentially spinoffs and may not be viewed as a core part of the experience. If you apply these restrictions, then the shortest game is "GTA 3."

"Grand Theft Auto 3" brought the series into 3D and established the modern "GTA" format. Clocking in at just 15 hours to complete the story (per How Long To Beat), this is easily the briefest entry. Like later games in the franchise, "GTA 3" has lots of side content that can extend a playthrough out to 40 hours but this is light compared to what followed.

Despite being on the shorter end, "GTA 3" was still a breakthrough title at the time. It redefined the franchise and set a new standard for open-world gameplay. So much of what is considered the "GTA" experience today was established in this game and it received plenty of love from fans and critics as a result. It ultimately became one of only four near-perfect PS2 games on Metacritic and is still remembered fondly. It may be short, but it still ranks as one of the series' best.

The shortest console and PC game: GTA 2

What if you count all of the console and PC titles that make up the core of the "Grand Theft Auto" series? In that case, "GTA 3" gets beaten out by its predecessor, "GTA 2." Released in 1999, this was the last of the 2D entries and only takes about 12 hours to complete (per How Long To Beat). This sequel puts a greater emphasis on side content which means that a completionist run spans a much longer period than the original "GTA" but, in terms of the core story, it comes in slightly shorter.

The series has certainly moved on from its roots and "GTA 2" ranks very low in the "GTA" franchise. Even at the time of its release, it earned mostly average reviews from critics. Still, the game is an important part of the IP and gaming history. For those who want to see how the series started without investing too much time, this would be the game to check out.

The shortest overall: GTA Advance

If you count absolutely every standalone game in the "Grand Theft Auto" series, the shortest is also, arguably, the worst. "GTA Advance" was the only title released for the Game Boy Advance and also the only one developed by a company other than Rockstar or its predecessor. This handheld title serves as a prequel to "GTA 3" with an ending that sets up some plot points for it. It also brings back the 2D gameplay of the early days and suffers for it.

"GTA Advance" ranks as the absolute worst "Grand Theft Auto" game with its solid story and writing overshadowed by poor gameplay. Fortunately, this disappointing game is brief. The story will only run about seven hours and a completionist run will barely take longer than finishing the story of "GTA 2." While it's short, most would argue it's not worth even the little amount of time it requires to complete. For those who want a taste of 2D "GTA," the first or second game are better choices, and, for a shorter, modern "GTA," the third entry is definitely the way to go.